After a long two week break from Championship football, and with some successful international performances under the belts of several Reading players, this Saturday sees the Royals take on Cardiff in the league. The last league game for Reading ended with a 3-2 away defeat to Charlton, despite a Pavel Pogrebnyak brace. The international break came at a great time for the Royals, who were seemingly struggling with the pressure of having to play two games a week on top of an FA Cup run. While Reading have many who featured for their international side in the last week, the majority will be rested and rejuvenated going into a must-win set of matches.
The reverse fixture between the two sides, back in 2014, saw the Bluebirds take victory 2-1. Defender Alex Pearce, in particular, will most certainly be hoping for a better performance this time out as his own goal and red card contributed to the defeat. Reading have since faced Cardiff in the FA Cup, this time winning 2-1 courtesy of goals from Oliver Norwood and Hal Robson-Kanu. Having already beaten the Bluebirds in the Steve Clarke era, the Royals will be confident of doing the same this time around in the league.
In terms of the lineup, Reading will have to cope without the United States midfielder Danny Williams who will be serving his one-match ban following his red card at Charlton. Stephen Kelly, Anton Ferdinand and Jure Travner are all out through injury, while Nathaniel Chalobah and Simon Cox are also both doubtful to make an appearance.
Clarke’s two new loan signings are both however available. With Williams and Chalobah both ruled out, the stage is set for 20-year-old Nathan Ake to make his Reading debut. The youngster is versatile and has already been praised by the manager, so is definitely one to watch. With the partnership of Pavel Pogrebnyak and Jamie Mackie currently working well for the Royals, Kwesi Appiah may have to wait a little longer for his debut but will surely make an appearance in some form on Saturday. Described as “strong and quick” by the manager, Appiah will most certainly make an impact in the side if he lives up to expectation.
Cardiff, meanwhile, are set to field a new striking duo in the form of Eoin Doyle and Conor McAleny. Nicky Maynard, Anthony Pilkington and Kagisho Dikgacoi are all out, while Lee Peltier, Federico Macheda, Joe Mason and Alex Revell could be in contention following injuries. Top-scorer Kenwyne Jones will not be appearing for the side as he is currently out on loan at Bournemouth. Defender Ben Turner may also start following a spell out with an ankle injury sustained against Reading in the FA Cup.
With Reading currently finding themselves in 19th place in the Championship, just eight points ahead of Millwall in 22nd, the relegation talk is not over just yet. Cardiff, in 14th position, are only seven points ahead of the Royals and are a side who Reading can certainly defeat. Based on their recent form, particularly away, Cardiff will be a tough test. Most recently, the Bluebirds have taken all three points from the likes of Birmingham and Brentford and even managed a draw against promotion candidates Bournemouth. In their last five away matches they are unbeaten, winning three and drawing two.
“Our future is there for us to play for. We’ve got four games coming up before the semi-final and in those four games I would like to get the points that secure our Championship status for next year.”– Reading Manager Steve Clarke
In the league, Reading have won only two of their last five home games, having lost to Nottingham Forest, Wigan and Leeds. It can safely be said that the Reading form has been somewhat underwhelming this season and consequently the Royals see themselves in a dangerous position in the league. The main issue seems to be defensively, having conceded fifteen goals in the last six games. If the defence can stop leaking goals at such a rapid rate, then there is every chance that the side can start taking all three points from the games coming up.
Reading did manage an outstanding team performance in their last home match in the FA Cup Replay against Bradford, meaning they have won their last two home games in all competitions. The Royals will be hoping that after a short break, and with a couple of new signings in the ranks, that they will be able to replicate such a performance over the next few games in order to guarantee league safety.